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By Nicole Wong

Four UC Irvine political organizations came together for the third and final debate hosted by the ASUCI “60 by 16” Commission and HQ: Student Commentary in the Crystal Cove Auditorium on Feb. 23.

At the debate titled “Whose Side Are You On?” student representatives from BernEaters (Anteaters for Bernie Sanders), Young Americans for Liberty, College Democrats at UCI and College Republicans at UCI debated on a wide range of topics from immigration policies to reproductive health care.

Student participants in ASUCI's third and final debate battled over presidential election issues and defended their chosen candidates last Tuesday. University of California Irvine's College Republicans swept all three debates, including last Tuesday's, according to a survey of 91 attendees. (Courtesy of Tracy La)
Student participants in ASUCI’s third and final debate battled over presidential election issues and defended their chosen candidates last Tuesday. University of California Irvine’s College Republicans swept all three debates, including last Tuesday’s, according to a survey of 91 attendees. (Courtesy of Tracy La)

“As a nonpartisan commission, we want to help provide UCI students knowledge about the many different political ideologies and perspectives on many issues,” said “60 by 16” Co-Commissioner Tracy La. “These events have been part of our goal to provide voter education and engagement throughout the student body, in addition to our main goal of getting students to register to vote.”

Callum Lamb and William Leonard represented BernEaters, Mitchell Stern and Tyler Walker spoke for Young Americans, Luis Aleman and Ana Duran presented for College Democrats and George Novshadyan and Robert Petrosyan represented College Republicans.

All organizations first addressed the replacement of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away earlier this month, and the constitutionality of Republican senators’ intentions to block President Obama’s nomination.

BernEaters and College Democrats both agreed that President Obama has the right to appoint a new justice before the election. College Republicans agreed, but also noted the Senate’s right to deny a nominee.

Walker from Young Americans for Liberty pointed out, “Democrats are going to say it’s unconstitutional because they want a Democrat — a left-leaning judge on the Supreme Court — and of course Republicans are going to say ‘no’ because they want a right-leaning judge on the Supreme Court. Both sides are going to play politics.”

On the issue of immigration, all four teams agreed policy reform is needed.

College Republicans advocated for Marco Rubio’s plan to secure the border and enact a long-term tenure process to acquire legal status.

College Democrats and Young Americans both agreed immigrants should be welcomed into America because all they are looking for is the promise of a better life.

“We should be thankful [for the immigrants] because [they have] contributed to the prosperity in this country,” said Walker. “Immigrants don’t take jobs; they create jobs.”

All organizations also called for reform of sentencing laws for marijuana use.

Petrosyan made a distinction between drug users and dealers. He stated the former should go to rehab instead of prison, but the latter should receive prison sentences.

Stern and Walker from Young Americans argued that drug abuse is a medical issue, and not a criminal one.

“[The drug war] has led to a black market that has fed gangs and violence in this country,” said Walker. “It has led to the rise of the cartels. Since we lifted the prohibition on alcohol, nobody wants to sell alcohol because kids can just go to a store now and buy it instead of buying it from a sketchy drug dealer. It’s similar to all drugs. Instead of incriminating these people, let’s come together and let’s help them.”

On the subject of gun control, BernEaters and College Republicans were at odds.

Lamb from BernEaters said Bernie Sanders believed in the Second Amendment, but didn’t think semiautomatic weapons should be allowed.

College Republicans believed gun control was ineffective, but did agree that more intensive background checks were needed. Petrosyan added, “If you had a gun, you wouldn’t be at the mercy of the person victimizing you.”

BernEaters directly opposed that statement by stating that having a gun in the house increases the danger to the people in that house, and America should model Australia’s strict gun laws.

The conversation then moved to foreign policy and the ethics of aiding regime changes in other countries.

Stern from Young Americans for Liberty argued that regime change isn’t good because someone worse can take over, giving the toppling of Saddam Hussein as an example

College Democrats took a more neutral stance and stated that the world is complex, and America should take a balanced approach.

College Republicans thought the United States had a duty to help other countries. “The world is not a safer place without American leadership, and the last two decades after the Cold War have proven that, without American leadership, this world only gets worse and worse,” said Novshadyan.

“We have to take the lead because we’re the only ones capable of doing so, and that is not a bad thing. American leadership creates more stability.”

BernEaters disagreed. “We have this policy of regime change whenever the regime is not favorable to our economics,” said Lamb. “There is no guise of morality which is justification for our economic and political gains.”

The importance of reproductive health care was also a topic of mutual agreement among all the organizations.

Stern from Young Americans stated whether citizens are pro-life or pro-choice, the federal government shouldn’t be involved either way. Duran from College Democrats agreed.

“I take great pride in this issue, being the only woman on stage to be able to talk about it,” said Duran. “As a woman, I take great offense when the federal government [tries] to block Planned Parenthood from expanding, especially because no one should tell me how to control my body. The government should not tell any woman how to control their own body.”

ASUCI conducted a poll for students to vote for the organization they believed won the debate. College Republicans received 44 percent of the vote, marking their third win in all three debates.

“I think the Campus Debate Series has been largely successful, in many part thanks to our collaborations with HQ and the clubs that participated in our debates,” said La. “We saw a high turnout of nearly 100 students for every debate, and have received positive feedback through our online polls from over 200 responses. We’ve heard that attendees and debaters want us to continue the series, so I hope to bring these events back next year.”

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